Which mobile publishing solution should travel operators invest their marketing dollars in?
We all know that mobile has been a hot topic for a while now. For travel operators, there is no debate that having a strong and reliable mobile presence is crucial for staying afloat in today’s media-driven market. While many travel operators have already taken a leap digital and converted their print travel brochures or destination guides into flipbooks for online readers, when it comes to mobile it can be tricky to decide which platform—apps or online—to invest your marketing efforts and dollars.
This blog will take a look at both leading mobile publishing solutions and how they stack up in the market today to help you build a stronger, more profitable mobile strategy for your travel brochures or destination guides.
Before you can decide which mobile solution is right for your business, it is important to have a clear understanding about the difference between publishing your travel content online and as apps.
A mobile e-edition is the browser-based version of your travel brochure or destination guide which has been optimised for mobile. It is accessed via a URL and functions in the same way as a HTML webpage.
A mobile app is a small software application that needs to be downloaded from the iTunes or Google Play app store and installed onto a device. Unlike an e-edition, an app is entirely self-contained, so once it is installed onto a device it does not require a browser to run. It is also possible to access certain content and features offline in an app.
Let’s take a closer look at mobile travel behaviour
- Travelers are increasingly choosing to research their travel plans in small micro-moments throughout their day. As a result, mobile sessions are becoming shorter but more frequent, with the average session lasting only 1 minute, 10 seconds.
- Leisure travelers overwhelmingly rely on search engines to find local information: 84% for search engines vs 40% for apps. 35% will type a url into the browser, 32% will click on a link in an email, 1% other.
- Google insights reveal that mobile makes up 88% of all “near me” searches, with those mobile searches growing by 146% year over year.
- In 2015 38% of non-branded searches—like flights to Florida, cruises to the Caribbean, or hotels in Chicago—come from mobile devices.
- 46% of travelers who do mobile travel research say they made their final booking decision on mobile, but moved to another device to make the booking.
- Only 9% of users will stay on a mobile site or app if it doesn’t satisfy their needs (for example, to find information or navigate quickly).
Those who turn to their mobile device to seek travel inspiration or research their plans are increasingly doing so on impulse, during the small moments throughout their day– when on the bus home from work, while watching tv, or standing in line at the grocery store. With mobile session times becoming increasingly shorter, your travel guide or brochure needs to be instantly accessible on mobile and in a format which allows readers to find exactly what they are after in as few clicks as possible. Since reading time is shorter, your optimised mobile guide or brochure would benefit from making use of smartphone functionality shortcuts– call us, click for directions, or buy now buttons.
With mobile travel behaviour in mind, let’s assess how the mobile web and apps compare.
Cost and setup considerations
In general, a mobile edition is often cheaper to produce, both when setting it up and for ongoing maintenance. Since a mobile e-edition will work across all devices and browsers, you will only need to build one version and it will cover all mobile users. No need to worry about platform compatibility as all common browsers will run a HTML page smoothly.
An app is generally more expensive to build than an e-edition. When you factor in yearly developer memberships and fees for each app store, as well as the fact that you need to develop and test apps in separate environments, then this may start to chip away at your budget. Remember also that keeping your apps up to date includes developing and testing bug fixes, and ensuring they are compatible with new software releases, which means more work for your team.
You will need to decide which app stores you will be building for– iTunes and Google Play are the most common, but what about the Windows app store? Will you be creating separate apps for smartphones and tablets? Once you have built your apps they will also need to go through an app store submission process where they will be reviewed before approval is granted. If your app does not meet the standards upheld by each respective store then you will need to revise your app and re-submit it, potentially resulting in lengthy review periods.
As local search becomes increasingly common on mobile devices, it pays off for travel operators to have their marketing content readily and easily available in these moments. Publishing your destination guides or travel brochures as an online mobile edition gives you an ease of control when it comes to how you can situate your content in the digital market.
One of the most lauded benefits an app has over a mobile e-edition is that your content will be hosted for you by globally recognised and frequented online stores. For any mobile user, access to the app store is literally only one tap away.
However, while the app stores will collectively invite a huge amount of traffic each and every day, they also house an an overwhelming number of apps that your guides or brochures will be competing to stand out above. While you will find numerous blogs written about the art of app optimisation– with download frequency, uninstall rates, relevancy, and keywords playing a role in how your app ranks in the store– it is not enough to reply on in store means of promoting your app. As a matter of fact, only 40% of mobile users discover apps while browsing the app store, the rest are through search engines, search ads, or self-promotion.
Marketers like to quote the stat that 90% of all time people spend on mobile is spent in apps, sometimes insinuating that apps are the ultimate answer to all of your mobile marketing hurdles. However, it is important to identify which apps we really spend all of our time connected to. According to Flurry, time spent in-app on iOS and Android connected devices is dominated by gaming, social networking, social messaging and entertainment– think the big time wasters like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Gmail, and Angry Birds.
Apps which do not re-engage users on an ongoing basis tend to be quickly forgotten about or even uninstalled. When deciding whether or not publishing apps is the right mobile strategy for your business, ask yourself what ongoing value or use it will provide your target market. If you create guides that are usually only needed during the duration of a traveler’s 2-week vacation then can no longer be used after they return then your guide may be better suited as an online edition as they are quicker, easier, and more cost-effective to create. On the other hand, if your app can offer mobile users ongoing value then they will be less likely to become obsolete and more likely to strengthen your mobile strategy.
A mobile e-edition can contain all of the elements as a desktop version, just optimised for a smaller touch screen. A mobile e-edition that has been built with HTML5, the latest and most versatile standard in web design, can accommodate a range of functionality that will allow for an experience similar to a native app. Cross-platform touch interactivity, as well as smartphone-specific commands, such as tap to call, can be incorporated into your mobile guide or brochure to enhance engagement and offer a simplified user journey.
Offline functionality is one realm where e-editions, for the most part, tend to fall short, with many travel operators instead looking to apps to find a solution to this problem. As the term suggests, an online edition requires you remain connected to the web to load and function, and any dip in connectivity can result in a site which is sluggish or unavailable. Of course, there are workarounds that can be put in place to counteract these issues, such a download-PDF option or the ‘add to home screen’ option which will cache a website and add a bookmark to your home screen.
While 4G connectivity is becoming a standard across the United States and Australia, for those traveling overseas there is always the possibility that they will encounter wifi or data blind spots in destination. As a result, a lot of travel apps will allow readers to download important features like maps, brochures, vouchers, or even videos to their device for offline use. This will help maintain peak performance at all times.
If your goal is to get your guide or brochure into the hands of travelers in the simplest, quickest means possible then an e-edition is often most effective way of achieving this. Every single smartphone or tablet has a built in browser which can load your publication in just seconds. Better yet, when you employ mobile-friendly methods for delivering your new content like SMS then your guide or brochure can be launched straight from the message. Timing is everything, especially when you are dealing with a market which turns to mobile for immediate answers. Your readers will not need to redirect themselves to their respective app store, find your app, wait for it to download, and then download the content from within the app, all for something that they could potentially find online.
When your e-edition is built with HTML as a responsive, reflowable web edition, you can ensure it will look and function consistently across all platforms and devices with no need to install plugins or other software to run it. This means that unlike an app, a user will not need to download the application for each device they intend to access it from, it is as simple as just sharing the URL.
Apps however, once downloaded, do offer better front of mind penetration by taking up branded space on a user’s home screen. It also has the benefit of being only one tap away at any point. If you are putting forth content that offers ongoing use and value such as travel planners and itineraries then an app may facilitate a more contained, engaging experience on mobile. Apps also allow you to send immediate updates to each device that it is installed on, notifying the traveler when new content is available.
Which mobile publishing solution is right for your business?
At the end of the day, choosing which mobile publishing solution is right for your business starts with having a solid understanding of your target audience as well as your mobile marketing strategy. What features are you trying to push with your mobile edition and how are you using these to leverage your destination guide or travel brochure within the mobile market? Look to your Google Analytics tracking account to help you get a better understanding of how readers are engaging with your brand online and monitor reader feedback to help you tailor your strategy for mobile.
A mobile web presence is crucial for all brands, but with on-the-go mobile searches at an all time high amongst travelers, it is crucial that travel content providers do not forgo a strong mobile web strategy. Not only are e-editions more affordable and easier to discover, but they can also be leveraged to direct traffic back to your website. Once you have established your mobile web presence and are looking to take your content to the next level then a mobile app can be used to fill the gaps.
To find out more about how you can create a mobile content strategy for your travel guides or brochures that will help you grow your business in the mobile market, click through to read our presentation.